by Paul R. Spitzzeri
As we gear up for our “Beyond the Grave” tours on Sunday the 29th, here is another post related to that program, which deals with death, mourning and remembrance. The focus of this entry is on Charles Parker Temple, the youngest of the eleven children of Antonia Margarita Workman and F.P.F. Temple.
Charles was born at the Rancho La Merced near modern South El Monte in May 1872, during the peak of his family’s wealth and influence in greater Los Angeles. His father was a leading business figure in the region, with involvement in real estate, oil, railroads and many other endeavors, including banking with Charles’ maternal grandfather, William Workman. In fact, the Temple and Workman bank had just opened the previous fall and, with the area in a sustained boom including a growing population and an expanding business arena, the future looked bright for the families.
However, when Charles was just three years old, the bubble burst and the economy went into a free fall. The Temple and Workman bank was not prepared or well-managed and, after borrowing nearly $350,000 from Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin and mortgaging vast amounts of property to secure the loan, Charles’s father and grandfather were unable to save the stricken institution. It failed in early 1876 and most of the family’s fortune went along with it.
After Baldwin foreclosed on the loan three years later, he did sell the 50-acre Temple family homestead on La Merced to Charles’ mother (F.P.F. Temple died of a stroke in spring 1880 when Charles was seven years old) and so the young man grew up at that property and attended the local school called La Puente (which was not in today’s La Puente!) As a teenager, he completed the equivalent of high school at St. Vincent’s College, a Catholic boys school that is now Loyola Marymount University.
In 1892, Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple died and left the Temple Homestead to Charles and his older brother, Walter. Several years later, the pair divided the ranch, but they also leased out portions. For example, there were two homes on the property, including the adobe house built by the Temples in the early 1850s and a brick home added about twenty years later. Walter and Charles leased the older home to a winemaker named Giovanni Piuma for a number of years.
When in his mid-20s, Charles married Rafaela Basye, whose family lived nearby in what was known as Misión Vieja or Old Mission, a community established around the original site of Mission San Gabriel. However, not long after their marriage, Rafaela died young. Her family attached suspicion to Charles and a duel was actually held with one of the Basye brothers, in which Charles was wounded.
Then, in 1902, another Basye brother was drinking in the La Palma saloon, which Charles ran out of the old Temple adobe, and began an argument with Charles, who told him to leave and was rebuffed. Charles produced a gun and fired, killing his adversary. A sensational trial followed that was covered heavily in Los Angeles newspapers, including much attention paid to Charles’ second wife, Susie Castino, whom he had just married when the shooting took place. A jury acquitted Charles of a murder charge, determining he’d acted in self-defense.
Not long afterward, Charles sold his interest in the Temple Homestead and moved his wife and young son, Charles, Jr., to Santa Monica. Later, he spent some years in Arizona and it was whispered that he left the Misión Vieja community because of concerns for his safety in the wake of the result of the trial.
Not much is known about Charles’ last years and he lived in Glendale when he died on this day in 1918. Just a little under a year prior to that his brother Walter purchased the Workman Homestead with money realized from royalties derived from oil wells discovered on property Walter bought when he sold the Temple Homestead in 1912 and moved a little west to the northeastern edge of the Montebello Hills and flat lands on the west of the Rio Hondo.
With Walter’s November 1917 purchase of the Homestead came a condition that he would not be able to take occupancy of most of the 75-acre property because it was under lease to a farmer known only as K. Yatsuda (Japanese-Americans were not allowed by state law to own property, so farmers had to lease land.) The lease expired at the end of 1918, so it appears that Walter arranged to have his brother buried at the El Campo Santo cemetery on the ranch.
Notably, the cemetery was largely in ruins. During the ownership of Lafayette F. Lewis of Anaheim during the first years of the 1900s, Lewis decided to dismantle the cemetery, claiming the Gothic Revival chapel built by William Workman and named for Workman’s wife Nicolasa, burned down and then tore down most of the brick wall around the burial ground.
Walter Temple, living at the Temple Homestead, filed suit against Lewis in 1906 and won a judgment prohibiting further damage and ordering repairs made or equivalent funds given to Temple for the destruction. Lewis evaded the question by selling the ranch at the end of 1907. When Temple bought the Homestead, El Campo Santo was an overgrown mess.
The accompanying photo cannot be authenticated as that of Charles Temple, but it seems likely to be of that funeral. No other family members died between Walter’s acquisition of the Homestead and the renovation work he did at the cemetery after 1919. A close look reveals part of the cast-iron fence that still encloses the main burial area in the cemetery and there are even a trio of small wooden headboards poking out of the dirt.
When, in spring 1921, Walter completed a mausoleum at the location where the chapel had been, the remains of Charles along with many other Workman and Temple family members were reinterred there from the burial plot shown in the photo. For years, the Homestead has followed a tradition of placing silk flowers in holders on the crypts of family members during the month when they passed away. So, another photo shown here was taken this morning of Charles’ crypt.
We hope you will join us on the 29th, a week from this Sunday, for our “Beyond the Grave” tours and check back here for another event-related post in the upcoming week!
For more info, here is the flyer.